The Connection Between Leadership and Stewardship

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In the realm of corporate governance and financial management, there are theories used to
predict the behavior of a company’s manager in the absence of the company’s owner. In other
words, these theories predict how that manager, if left to their own devices, will handle the
assets for which they are responsible.

One of these theories is Agency theory.  The cliff notes version of Agency theory (based on information gathered from Investopedia and Oxfordre) is that the manager will always look out for his or her personal best interest first, without regard to how it aligns to the best interests of the owner of the company, or the company as a whole.

On the other side of the coin is Stewardship Theory.  According to Wikipedia, this ideology asserts that the manager, when left alone, will be a “responsible steward” for assets with which he or she has been entrusted. Instead of being focused on self-preservation, they are focused on preserving the resources of the organization, because they place greater value on their duty as “steward” than on individual gain. 

Thinking “outside the box” here, let’s apply these principals to leadership.  When you think of “good” leaders, what comes to mind?  What about the term “fearless leader“?  After all, history is filled with accounts of strong leaders who invariably exhibit courage in the face of adversity. 

And it is here that we see the link between leadership and stewardship. A “good” leader is able to be fearless because their focus is on their duty at hand, not on how it may personally effect them. They aren’t worried about themselves, but instead, on the mission, on the finish line, on what lies beyond the horizon.  It is this focus outside themselves that allows them to be fearless.  And it is this fearlessness that inspires others to follow in the same manner.  This fearlessness is the stuff of which heroes are made. 

The “bad” leaders, however, they are the ones puppeteering from the safe space “behind the curtain”. They may be applauded for cunning strategy, but rarely for being an inspiration to others.  They may reach the finish line, but not without visible wear and tear.

Good leaders have the heart of a steward, and see their role as the service role that it is.  They aren’t there for the fame and the glory—which is exactly why it is those leaders that are remembered long after they’re gone. 


Cat is a freelance writer, and continues her family’s legacy of writing from a small rural town in Texas. She has a deep love of books, learning, and knowledge, and a passion for the written word. 

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